Archive for the ‘Osibisa’ Category

The Reading Festival 27 – 29 August 1976

The Reading Festival 27 – 29 August 1976
readingprog It was August Bank Holiday 1976 and I was back at Reading for the annual festival. By now a group of us went every year, usually traveling down in the back of a hired transit van. The line-up for this festival wasn’t as strong as previous years, and included a mix of reggae, classic rock, underground and heavy metal bands. Punk was on the horizon, but yet to break through. The other memories I have are of rain (some, but not lots in 1976, as I recall), mud, lots of drunkenness (by us, and every one else as I remember), and lots (and I mean lots) of can fights, which seemed fun at the time, but were probably actually pretty dangerous. If you got a half-full can of Watney’s Red Barrel on the back of your head, you really knew about it, and several people must have come home from the festival with pretty nasty cuts and scars. The festival was moving from a friendly, hippy vibe to a drunken, laddish, almost aggro vibe. This also matched the way the line-up and the music would develop, as it moved more to heavy metal in the late ’70s. The main attraction for us this year was Rory, who was the man, and a hero to us all.
Friday’s line-up consisted of Stallion (don’t recall who they were), Roy St John (American pub rock), U Roy (reggae), Supercharge (a Liverpool band fronted by singer and sax player Albie Donnelly, who had quite a bit of success in the mid-70s and played a lot up and down the country; I remember seeing them several times), Mighty Diamonds (reggae), Mallard (Cpt Beefheart’s original Magic Band, and pretty good too) and headliners the hippy, trippy and quite weird Gong. I remember watching Mallard and Gong, who were both pretty good.
reading76Saturday had Nick Pickett (a folk singer, who I’d seen supporting Curved Air a few years earlier), Eddie & The Hot Rods (classed as pub rock as much as punk at this stage), Moon, Pat Travers (ace guitarist), Jon Hiseman’s Colosseum, Sadista Sisters, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Van Der Graaf Generator, Phil Manzanera and the 801 band, Camel and Rory Gallagher. Stand outs for me were Van Der Graaf who played an amazing extended version of Killer (John Peel: “Bloody marvellous, Van der Graaf Generator. Come on let’s here it for them”), Manfred Mann, and Phil Manzanera and the 801 band, which was seen as a pretty big deal at the time as Phil had assembled a stella line-up of himself (guitar), ex-Roxy compatriot Brian Eno (keyboards, synthesizers, vocals), Bill MacCormick (bass, vocals), Simon Phillips (drums), Francis Monkman (ex-Curved Air, piano and clavinet) and Lloyd Watson (ace slide-guitar, vocals). The 801 band released one album, and a live lp which was recorded at one of three gigs that they played, at the Festival Hall. They played a great version of the Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows. But Rory was the highlight of the weekend. We were all massive fans, and made our way to the front of the crowd for his set, which was just amazing. A recording of Rory’s set that night exist which shows that he played: Take What I Want; Bought and Sold; Everybody Wants To Know; Drinkin’ Muddy Water; Tattoo’d Lady; Calling Card; Secret Agent; Pistol Slapper Blues; Too Much Alcohol; Souped-Up Ford and Bullfrog Blues. The Rory Gallagher band was Rory (guitar, vocals), Lou Martin (keyboards), the great Gerry McAvoy (bass) and Rod de’Ath (drums).
reading76Sunday featured: Howard Bragen; Aft; The Enid (who got the crowd singing along with Land Of Hope And Glory and became a festival favourite), A Band Called ‘O’; Back Door (very jazzy); Sassafras; Brand X (featured Phil Collins on drums); AC/DC (one of their early UK appearances, and just blew everyone away; Angus and Bon Scott on top form); Sutherland Bros & Quiver; Ted Nugent (had some arguments with the crowd who were throwing cans at him); Black Oak Arkansas (Jim Dandy to the Rescue πŸ™‚ ) and Osibisa (who were billed as special mystery guests, which seemed a bit of a let down, but got the crowd going and went down well).
Another fun time had by all πŸ™‚
Note; for the first time there was an official glossy programme, as well as the newspaper programme, produced by the local Evening Post. Both are pictured here.

Osibisa: criss-cross rhythms live in the early to mid 1970s

Osibisa: criss-cross rhythms live in the early to mid 1970s
osibisalpOsibisa is Ghanian for…’criss-cross rhythms that explode with happiness’. Good choice of name. Osibisa were ahead of their time. Formed in 1971 their unique fusion of African, Caribbean, Rock, Jazz, Latin and Rβ€˜n’B paved the way for world music, disco, reggae and Bob Marley and the emergence of African music in the 80s. A night in the company of Osibisa was guaranteed to be good fun, high energy, and very different from the progressive rock I was going to see at the time, and the punk music that lay just around the corner for me. David Hughes wrote (Disc and Music Echo, 1971): “….criss-cross rhythms are exploding with happiness right across the country, and if ever you want to get high – but naturally – all you have to do is see them play, hear their music or simply be in their presence!” Osibisa are one of those bands that I saw several times, but can’t recall exactly where or when. It was in the early to mid 70s, and probably at Sunderland Locarno or Newcastle Mayfair. I definitely remember seeing them at Newcastle Poly Students Union one night. Marie and I were in the habit of going along to the Poly dances on Friday nights in the mid 70s. Most of the time we didn’t know who was performing until we arrived, which had to be before 10.30pm (no entry after that point, to dissuade the locals turning up when the pubs closed). Once or twice we got there to find Osibisa playing, which was a great surprise. In his memoirs “Broken Music” Sting refers to his band Last Exit supporting Osibisa at a Poly gig in the mid 70s. Well; I don’t recall seeing Last Exit that night (they had probably finished their set by the time we arrived) but I do recall Osibisa going down a storm. Crazy beats, happy vibes, wonderful Roger Dean graphics on their album covers and the late great founder member Sparticus R (actually he left in the early days of the band). They would explode into the hall; pounding congas, driving bass, chants; the crowd were up and with them from the start, dancing along with the African highlife rhythms. “Sunshine Day” was out at the time; which must place it around 1975. Think I also saw them at Bede College Durham (or that could have been Assagai who were another African rock band of the time) and at Reading festival when they were a special guest band, closing the 1976 festival. Osibisa are still playing today. Robin Denselow reviewed a 2010 gig at the Festival Hall London: “Osibisa have played a unique role in the history of African music. No other band achieved such extraordinary success, in terms of hit singles and albums in the UK and US, and yet no other band fell so dramatically from fashion…….But Osibisa kept going and, 40 years on, they were back in London to show that they have refused to change their approach, and are still populist mavericks” (the Guardian, 3rd March 2010). Time for me to see them again methinks.
Sting (2005), Broken Music: A Memoir, Dial Press.
Osibisa website: